When Kayla was about a week old I remember Joe and I driving back home from registering her in the military system. We turned on our street and there was a girl, doing such a typical child thing - riding her bike.
I watched her and felt sadness. I was still dealing with the emotions and hormones from giving birth, and dealing with the Down syndrome diagnosis.
Most of my memory from that time is foggy. I really don't remember what strong feelings, thoughts, expectations, or understanding I had of Down syndrome and what that meant for my daughter.
But I do remember that moment. I remember turning to Joe, and trying not to cry as I asked him, "Do you think Kayla will ever ride a bike?" He said, "Of course she will. Why wouldn't she?" I didn't know. I didn't know why I thought she might not. I didn't know what to expect about any of her development.
All I know is that riding a bike felt so very important to me at that moment. It was a rite of childhood. The feeling of getting a new bike (I remember the excitement of my 10th birthday and getting a 'banana seat' bike), of riding through the neighborhood with friends. A means of transportation before you were old enough to drive.
I wish I was writing this post today to say how silly I was to have even asked that question. I wish I was writing this post to say: See! She is riding a bike!
But she isn't. And I don't even know if she can, or if she just doesn't want to. Because she won't even get on her bike at all.
When she was going through Early Intervention services we had it listed on her goals to start pedaling a trike. But her legs were short and didn't reach the pedals, even on the smallest bike they had, so it took a while to even work on that goal. When she was 3 and went to preschool we incorporated pedaling goals in to her IEP. I think it was there for a year, maybe 2, and then we deleted it because she just wasn't showing any interest. We thought seeing the other kids riding would motivate her to want to try, but it never did. They put the blocks on the pedals and the straps across her shoes to keep her feet anchored on the pedals, but she wanted the straps off. She didn't want to pedal.
A few years ago I heard of the program Lose The Training Wheels and I was excited and hopeful that maybe one day Kayla would attend this camp and start riding a bike.
Last year, a few weeks after we moved to SC, I saw on the DSAL web page that there was a Lose The Training Wheels camp coming that summer. I was so excited thinking I could finally sign Kayla up. Then I saw you had to be 8 yrs old. Kayla turned 7 last summer. Once again the DSAL is holding another camp this summer. She'll be 8 in July, just in time to attend.
I was so excited to get the application... and then I realized this probably wasn't going to work out at all. I did a little more reading on their website to what it entails.
A participant may be physically able to ride a bike, but if their behavior is such that they cannot be persuaded to get on the bike and follow instructions, then it is likely this program will not be beneficial. Kayla has a bike w/training wheels. I can not get her on it now, what makes me think she would be persuaded to get on a bike at camp? I think it would end up feeling like a waste of time, and money.
Indicators of success: Participant is able to keep head up and look forward. The few times she has been on a bike she still looks down at her feet.
Participant has adequate stamina to ride 75 minutes per day for 5 consecutive days. I think she has the stamina to do it, I just don't think she has the will. When I have coaxed her on her bike she maybe pedals one or two rotations and then says she is done.
Participant is motivated, or able to be motivated, to learn to ride a bike. She is not motivated at all. Every once in a while, in an excited voice, I ask her if she wants to get on her bike and try it. Nope. She sees Lucas riding his bike all around. She sees other kids in the neighborhood riding their bikes - and I point them out as well, saying, "see Kayla? They're riding bikes and having fun! Do you want to try?"
Knowing that she wasn't riding her bike I bought her a scooter for Christmas, because she had occasionally used an old hand-me-down scooter someone gave Lucas when we were in MD. She got the concept and would ride the scooter, but it was a little small for her ... so I got her a new, bigger, more stable one. She was excited to get it and rode it in the driveway. Then she fell and the handlebar hit her cheek. Now she won't get back on that either.
When I try talking to her about why she doesn't want to ride her bike all she says is that she's scared... but she doesn't explain what she's scared about.
I know she's still young. I know it's a very real possibility she won't even want to ride a bike until she's 10, or 12, or years from now.
But I have to admit it makes me sad. It makes me sad because I feel like she's missing out on something so many kids enjoy. And I also want us to go bike-riding together, as a family. There is a nice park near us that has trails. I'd love nothing more than to pack a lunch, pack up our bikes, and hit the trails as a family one afternoon. Yet we can't do that. We can't go out for a bike ride as a family.
I think she's too big to sit in one of those bike trailers, so now I'm going to search to see if there is an attachment to put on a bike to attach another bike so we can have a tandem bike. Not sure if something like that is out there, but I don't want to have to spend the money on buying an adult/child tandem bike when we have plenty of bikes already. Maybe if we can get something like that I can get her to just sit on her bike while I do the pedaling and she's just connected to the bike.
Maybe then we can go riding as a family.